Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

International Women’s Day (8 March)

The Australian Government will provide $95,000 in sponsorship for a national sexual assault conference to be held in Melbourne in September, Senator Kay Patterson, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, announced today on International Women’s Day.

“This event, coordinated by a consortium of Victorian service providers, will provide a forum to discuss, debate and highlight policy issues and practical responses relating to sexual assault and domestic and family violence,” Senator Patterson said.

The Government is committed to tackling the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault through the $66.5 million funding of Partnerships Against Domestic Violence and the National Sexual Assault initiative.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are completely unacceptable and to raise awareness of these issues the Australian Government will launch a ground-breaking national domestic violence and sexual assault campaign,” Senator Patterson said.

“Last Friday I announced $500,000 in additional funding for Lifeline to improve access for families at risk of domestic violence.”

Senator Patterson used International Womens Day to announce a number of new initiatives for women including an innovative new program aimed at building the leadership capacity of Indigenous Australians.

“The course targets committed, highly-skilled Indigenous Australians who are leaders within their communities. It will explore models and concepts of leadership and focus on such areas as governance, communication, strategic planning, personal management and relationship building.”

“As part of the program five women last week commenced the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre’s Diploma-Level Indigenous Leadership Course, and have sponsorships which amount to $105,000,” Senator Patterson said

“In addition I am pleased to announce the production of a quality teaching resource, a DVD on women in science showcasing career options for women and girls,” Senator Patterson said.

“This will showcase a range of options for careers in science and medical science featuring women who are leaders in their fields. The DVD will give young women, especially in rural and remote areas, the opportunity to hear from women who have excelled in the science field; women who they would rarely have an occasion to meet,” Senator Patterson said.

Women around the world celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the status of women in different cultures and regions across the globe.

Senator Patterson said: “Australian women have made significant gains since 1996 with improved access to education, health care, child-care and employment.

“Since 1996 more than 600,000 jobs have been created for women and there are now more than 4 million women in the paid workforce,” Senator Patterson said.

“Another example of positive changes for women is in the area of education with a 30 per cent increase in the number of female students commencing undergraduate courses. This has risen from 90,137 in 1993 to 117,156 in 2003. There has been an even more dramatic increase in the number of female students commencing postgraduate courses. In 1993 there were 28,214 female postgraduate students and by 2003 there were 41,194 – this is an increase of 46 per cent.”

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government has delivered record support for women and has given women the choice to pursue a career, have a family or balance the two.

“Australian women now have access to record levels of child-care. The Government has doubled spending on child-care and has increased the number of Commonwealth funded places by more than 210,000 Commonwealth since 1996, taking the total to 530,000 places under the Howard Government.

The United Nations has identified this year’s theme as Women and HIV/AIDS, and Australia is represented on the international level on women’s issues with a delegation currently attending the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

Additional information on International Women’s Day is available at Office for Women.